2015 Symposium Panel II

Panel 2: ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHALLENGES II

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February 12, 2015

Event Summary by Madison Ashley 

Chaired by Dr. Joseph Sassoon of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Panel II of the 2015 Abdullah S. Kamel International Symposium followed on the lead of Panel I, further elaborating on the challenges that new energy production will pose for the environment and water security. All three panelists put forth diverging opinions on the convergence of oil, water, and security issues.

 Dr. Hussein Amery of the Colorado School of Mines began the panel with a discussion of the threats presented by water security in the Middle East and strategies for potential mitigation. According to Amery, the major threats to water supply are both natural and manmade. The natural stressors are the overexploitation and uneconomic use of water as well as climate change.  Manmade stressors however include the targeting of Saudi Arabia’s centralized desalination sources and cybersecurity threats presented by terrorists. To mitigate potential violence and enhance water security, Amery put forth several measures including the diversification of freshwater sources—including capturing rainwater and treating wastewater, the adoption of a broader regional approach, and the integration of water management.

 Amery was followed by Dr. Mark Giordano, the director of Georgetown’s Science, Technology and International Affairs program. Giordano approached the issue of water security from a markedly different perspective, taking aim at the concept of ‘water wars’ that has proliferated in recent years. Giordano began his talk by presenting the audience with a startling statistic: there has been only one known water war in world history, while there have been between 400-600 water treaties. “There hasn’t been any historical evidence that increasing scarcity is leading to wars,” Giordano said, citing several reasons including international pressure and the complex dynamics that govern inter-state relations. “The proposition of losing everything else to gain some water is not a very good one,” he said. While water can indeed be an exacerbating factor in large political conflicts, it is more likely to be a source of collaboration among states.

 The final speaker of panel two, Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies professor, Dr. Marwa Daoudy, discussed environmental security and the compounding issues of water access, climate change, and the potential for social and political conflict. Daoudy began by defining buzzwords that are currently dominating the discussion surrounding the industry, such as environmental security and energy security, both of which are continuously being re-defined as the energy landscape continues to change. Daoudy drew a link between resources and security, noting that while the relative abundance of natural resources can certainly increase economic growth, this is also dependent on the strength of the institutions governing it, with weak institutions being susceptible to corruption and the creation of rentier states. Daoudy highlighted a stark reality of the geopolitical situation, the fact that only 14 states control ten percent of the world’s oil supply, with 2/3 of these states concentrated in the Middle East, before raising the question of whether or not new, unconventional hydrocarbon resources like shale oil could prove a reliable source of energy with the potential to shape the existing energy landscape. 

Panelist Bios

Dr. Joseph Sassoon 

Dr. Joseph Sassoon is a visiting faculty member at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Dr. Sassoon has taught a number of courses at Georgetown, including Political Economy of the Arab World, Modern Politics and Histories of Iraq and Egypt, Politics and Economics of Authoritarianism, and Refugees in the Arab World. His latest book, Saddam Hussein's Ba’th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime,won the 2013 British-Kuwait Prize for best book on the Middle East. Dr. Sassoon received his PhD from St. Antony's College, Oxford and is a past Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He is currently serving as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars for the 2014/15 academic year.

Dr. Hussein Amery

Dr. Hussein A. Amery is an Associate Professor in the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies at the Colorado School of Mines. He has served as the university’s Associate Provost, director of his department, and as director of its graduate program. His academic expertise includes human and environmental security, trans-boundary water conflicts, and identifying and analyzing threats to critical infrastructure in the Arab Gulf States and the wider Middle East. He is currenlty working on a book on Arab water security, which focuses on the water supply challenges that Gulf states could face. He has co-authored a book on the hydro-politics along the Jordan River basin, and published papers on themes such as the potential for water war, Islamic perspectives on the natural environment, water management in Lebanon, and on conflict resolution along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. He has advised doctoral and masters students, and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the political economy of resources, the Middle East, and on water politics and policy. His academic contributions were honored by his selection as a 2005 Fellow by the International Water Association. Dr. Amery has been interviewed by international news media, and has worked as a consultant to U.S. government agencies, Canada’s International Development and Research Center, and to American engineering firms.

Dr. Mark Giordano

Dr. Mark Giordano is Director of the Program in Science, Technology and International Affairs, the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environment and International Affairs, and Associate Professor of Environment and Energy in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is well known for his work on conflict and cooperation over resources, international water law, and agricultural water management in developing countries as well as his sometimes provocative challenges to common natural resources management paradigms. Dr. Giordano’s passion is students, but he maintains an active research program, advises a variety of organizations on water issues and is a frequent speaker at international events. Prior to joining Georgetown in 2013, Dr. Giordano was a Managing Director of the Sri Lanka based International Water Management Institute, winner of the 2012 “Noble Prize for Water,” the Stockholm Water Prize. Dr. Giordano is from Eastern Washington but has spent most of his career outside the U.S.

Dr. Marwa Daoudy

Dr. Marwa Daoudy is Assistant Professor in International Relations at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  She is currently a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, on sabbatical leave from Georgetown. Her research and teaching focus on international and regional security, international relations, the environment, and Middle East politics. Her research has been published in International Negotiation, Journal of International Affairs, Journal of Peace and Security, The World Today, and Water Policy among others. She is currently working on two major research projects. One is a new book project on the environmental and social roots of the Syrian Uprising, and the other examines identity politics in the Middle East.